Additional Information on David Fenton

* Starting with a series of press conferences in the late 1990s, Fenton and Environmental Media Services attacked the dairy industry’s use of BST, a bovine growth hormone that was sometimes administered to cattle in order to increase their milk production. Claiming that BST rendered milk harmful and even carcinogenic, Fenton and his company demanded that the hormone be banned from the marketplace. With the help of funding from the organic food industry, they organized a Genetically Engineered Food Alert Coalition and promoted, as “experts,” the ecologist Michael Hansen, journalists-turned-activists Steve Wilson and Jane Akre, and Dr. Samuel Epstein, whom the American Association for Cancer Research once rated as “the least credible scientist on issues of environmental cancer.” Though both the American Dietetic Association and the American Medical Association eventually pronounced BST entirely safe for consumption, Fenton’s anti-biogenetic message—promoting the notion that organic foods are healthier than conventional or biotech products—gained many permanent adherents. And this earned millions of dollars for Fenton’s clients such as Whole Foods Markets, Honest Tea, Kashi Cereal, Green Mountain Coffee, and Rodale Press (a magazine publisher of periodicals promoting organic gardening and foods). Another key beneficiary was the ice cream producer Ben & Jerry’s, also a client of Fenton’s. Ben & Jerry’s ice cream stood to gain from the bad press aimed at the dairy industry, because their ice cream was made with hormone-free milk.

* Also in the late ’90s, Fenton masterminded the “Give Swordfish a Break!” (GSB) campaign for SeaWeb and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). Billed as a grassroots effort to tighten federal fishing regulations and to raise awareness regarding the over-fishing of endangered species, the initiative was bankrolled by grants from some 270 food merchants and succeeded in persuading at least 750 chefs to stop serving swordfish. Eventually, however, analysts noted that: (a) swordfish were not actually endangered, and (b) even if they _had_been endangered, the GSB campaign would have done little to revive their numbers, since it targeted only the U.S. fish market. At its heart, “Give Swordfish a Break!” was part of a larger strategy to cast federal regulations over numerous varieties of seafood, whether they were endangered or not. Toward that end, NRDC claimed that, in addition to swordfish, seafood species like cod, scallops, sole, sea bass, sturgeon, redfish, red snapper, and monkfish should be classified as “over-fished.” The website ActivistCash.com offers insight into the financial motivations that likely underpinned the “Give Swordfish a Break!” initiative:

“When SeaWeb and the Natural Resources Defense Council announced their joint effort to discourage the consumption of Caspian Sea sturgeon caviar, a news release blamed the imported caviar market for the ‘overfishing’ of these sturgeon. Within three weeks … Whole Foods Markets announced that it would begin selling a new ‘sustainable alternative to endangered wild sturgeon.’ The news release was promoted to the mass media by another Washington PR outfit called Environmental Media Services (EMS). Consider this: Whole Foods and EMS are both clients of Fenton Communications. It’s probably not a coincidence that one Fenton client is trying to skew public perception of an issue that could benefit another client…. The real purpose behind [such] campaigns seems to be to drive business to Fenton Communications’ other clients.”

* In July 2000, FC launched an aggressive campaign against Campbell Soup and Kellogg’s, for their production and distribution of genetically improved foods. “At twenty-two Fenton-orchestrated press conferences held nationwide,” reports the Capital Research Center, “Campbell and Kellogg’s were urged to stop producing all foods containing genetically improved ingredients. The news conferences featured Peter Hoffman, incoming chairman of Chefs Collaborative, who spoke about the benefits of organic foods and ‘sustainable cuisine.’ Funding for the effort came from the organic food industry.”

* In 2003, FC attacked sport utility vehicles as gas-guzzling polluters. In one campaign, Fenton produced ads for the Evangelical Environmental Network that asked, “What would Jesus drive?”—insinuating that driving SUVs was antithetical to the Christian duty to be a responsible steward of the environment. A second Fenton ad campaign helped syndicated columnist Arianna Huffington promote the notion that SUV drivers were supporting terrorism by consuming oil from the Middle East.

* In 2004, David Fenton penned an entry for the book MoveOn’s 50 Ways To Love Your Country: How To Find Your Political Voice And Become A Catalyst For Change. The book consists, in part, of 50 chapters authored by MoveOn members, famous liberals, and citizen activists, and includes tips on such activist pursuits as drafting petitions and organizing rallies. Other essays appearing in the book were provided by such notables as Al GoreNancy Pelosi, Joan Blades, and Eli Pariser.

* In 2009, Fenton’s name appeared on the official list of people who had visited the Obama White House.

* PR Week once named Fenton as “one of the 100 most influential P.R. people,” and The National Journal dubbed him “the Robin Hood of public relations.”

* Over the years, Fenton has given money to the political campaigns of a number of Democratic candidates, including Hillary Clinton, Howard Dean, Rosa DeLauro, Al Franken, Kirsten Gillibrand, Jerrold Nadler, Ralph Nader, and Barack Obama. He has also contributed to the pro-Democrat organization ActBlue.

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